A North Korean defector is on the run in China after escaping from prison 23 days ago, with police offering a $31,000 reward

Zhu Xianjian.
A mugshot showing Zhu Xianjian.
  • Zhu Xianjian, 37, escaped from prison in China's Jilin province on October 18, state media said.
  • He was caught defecting from North Korea to China in 2013, and imprisoned the next year.
  • Police are now offering a $31,000 reward for any information leading to his capture.

A North Korean defector who escaped from a Chinese prison 23 days ago is still at large, Chinese media reported.

The 37-year-old man, identified in Chinese media as Zhu Xianjian, scaled the walls at Jilin prison at around 6 p.m. on October 18, the Jilin City public security bureau wrote in an October 19 WeChat post.

Zhu's escape came at the end of a prisoner work shift, and involved him scaling the roofs of the prison complex, the state-run CCTV news network reported.

Video of the escape was captured on security tape. Footage published by the South China Morning Post showed Zhu scaling a shed to get to the roof, then using a long rope to damage the electric fences.

Zhu was sent to Jilin prison in 2014 after being sentenced to 11 years in prison for crimes including robbery and illegally crossing the Chinese border, CCTV reported.

He was to due for release in 2023, to be deported back to North Korea, CCTV said.

Police in Changchun, a city in Jilin province, initially offered up a reward of 150,000 Chinese yuan ($23,300) for tips leading to his capture, China's state-run Global Times newspaper reported.

Police have now increased that number to 200,000 yuan ($31,293), the Global Times tweeted Wednesday.

Zhu, who worked as a coal miner in North Korea, fled the country on July 21, 2013, by swimming across the Tumen River that connects North Korea with the Chinese city of Tumen, according to court documents.

Once across, Zhu stole around $230 in cash, several cellphones, and some clothes from homes in a nearby village, the documents said. He also stabbed an elderly woman who tried to stop him, the documents said.

"I took out a knife tied to my waist and stabbed the granny in the back. Then I noticed she was carrying a satchel. I tried to yank it off her but she wouldn't let go, so I stabbed her a few times more," Zhu told investigators, according to the documents.

The police caught up with Zhu within two days, and arrested him as he tried to flee in a taxi, the documents said.

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